In the quest to combat climate change, scientists and innovators are exploring various methods to actively remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. While reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial, additional measures are necessary to prevent dangerous levels of warming. Enhanced rock weathering, a process that accelerates the natural weathering of basalt, holds promise as an effective carbon removal technique. By increasing the surface area of basalt exposed to rain, enhanced rock weathering enhances the rate of carbon removal. This innovative approach lies between natural and man-made methods, providing an opportunity to mitigate climate change while benefiting farmers and the environment.
The potential of enhanced rock weathering
Jim Mann, the founder of UNDO, a company dedicated to enhanced rock weathering, believes in the power of basalt to cool our overheating planet. Basalt, a common volcanic rock, undergoes slow weathering in the rain, gradually removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over millennia. Enhanced rock weathering optimizes this process by breaking the basalt into tiny pieces, increasing the contact between rainwater and the rock. This accelerated weathering allows for more rapid carbon removal.
UNDO's operations take place in quarries, where basalt is extracted for construction purposes. The residual basalt rocks from these quarries serve as the primary resource for enhanced rock weathering. Instead of being discarded, these rocks become valuable for their carbon removal potential. To maximize the carbon sequestration, local farmers collaborate with UNDO to spread the crushed basalt on their fields. In addition to locking away carbon, basalt has shown promising results in improving crop yields and grazing quality.
Enhanced rock weathering aligns with several SDGs, contributing to the vision of a global society committed to sustainable development.
SDG 13: Climate Action emphasizes the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change. Enhanced rock weathering offers an innovative solution by actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere, complementing efforts to reduce emissions.
SDG 15: Life on Land focuses on protecting terrestrial ecosystems, promoting sustainable land use, and restoring degraded land. By incorporating enhanced rock weathering into farming practices, land can be utilized to deliver carbon removal benefits alongside food production.
The adoption of enhanced rock weathering represents a step toward a more sustainable and climate-resilient global society. Integrating this technique into agriculture allows for carbon removal while ensuring food security. Farmers benefit from free fertilizer, improved crop yields, and enhanced grazing quality, fostering a more sustainable agricultural system.
Furthermore, enhanced rock weathering aligns with the global society's vision of transitioning to a low-carbon future. While challenges remain in scaling up operations, such as energy consumption and transportation emissions, initial results show that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Collaboration with technology companies, like Microsoft's support for UNDO's projects, promotes accountability and monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of carbon removal efforts.
Enhanced rock weathering harnesses the potential of basalt to actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, presenting an innovative approach to combating climate change. By accelerating the natural weathering process, this technique offers a viable carbon removal solution that can be integrated into existing farming practices. The adoption of enhanced rock weathering aligns with the SDGs, particularly SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 15 (Life on Land). It represents a crucial step towards a sustainable future, where carbon removal efforts are combined with emissions reduction strategies. Although challenges remain, the ongoing research and implementation of enhanced rock weathering contribute to the vision of a global society committed to addressing climate change and preserving the planet for future generations.
More information: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-65648361